- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Beck beacon

Glenn Beck‘s provocative comments about the Obama administration generate much caterwaul from his critics and plenty of angst among conscientious advertisers. Yet Mr. Beck draws huge audiences to Fox News, leaving his handlers in a quandary. To silence or not to silence the host who recently proclaimed that President Obama was “racist”?

The chances are good that Mr. Beck will continue his mouthy surge. Audiences simply love the spectacle. The late afternoon show typically draws more than 2.3 million viewers, according to the most recent Neilsen TV ratings. CNN’s “The Situation Room” brings in 651,000 viewers; MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” draws 629,000.

And what if Mr. Beck should express some regret for his outspoken ways? A weighty mea culpa would only add to that spectacle.

“The irony? Probably better than average ratings,” predicts Rich Lieberman, media analyst for the San Francisco Chronicle.

But don’t hold your breath.

Cooking books

The American Small Business League (ASBL) is making a mighty big noise, challenging the Obama administration’s recent claims that 21.5 percent of federal contracts went to small businesses. Based on information gleaned from the Federal Procurement Data System, the group says the government actually did closer to 7 percent with small businesses.

They faulted the use of a new term — “small business eligible” — that allows government officials to subtract larger federal prime contracts from the overall federal acquisition budget. This reduction in turn “significantly inflates the percentage of all federal contracts awarded to small businesses,” the California-based ASBL says.

It also notes that Lockheed Martin, Textron, Boeing, Raytheon, L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, Dell Computer, General Dynamics, Office Depot, Xerox, 3M, Staples, GTSI, General Electric, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, South Korea’s Ssangyong Corp. and Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA are among the “small businesses” included in the Obama administration’s dealings.

“More small business contracts than ever are being diverted to Fortune 500 companies and corporate giants around the world. It’s unbelievable, and this affects everyone in America. This is $100 billion being pulled from middle class America,” said Lloyd Chapman, president of the California-based ASBL.

Department of discord

Despite partisan squabbles and media wars, the nation’s capital is not the most “stressful city” in America. That honor belongs to Chicago, at least according to Forbes magazine — followed by Los Angeles, New York, Cleveland, Providence, San Francisco, Detroit, Boston — and in ninth place, Washington. The magazine analyzed the particulars of 40 metropolitan areas — including weather, unemployment statistics, home prices, cost of living and other factors.

“Washington, D.C.’s low air quality, for which it ranks seventh, and high cost of living, for which it ranks fifth, puts this ninth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the top 10. Its 6.6 percent June unemployment rate, however, is the lowest of the 40 metro areas we examined,” says Forbes writer Sarah Lynch.

But we’re still a little shady, though. Washington ranks 14th in the nation for the least number of “sunny days” per year.

Poll du jour

80 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with their current doctor.

70 percent are satisfied with their health insurance coverage.

58 percent are willing to bear a tax increase to support heath care reform.

53 percent said the federal government should be minimally active in health care oversight.

30 percent say heath care reform will improve the quality of care.

38 percent say the reform will improve the cost of care.

Source: A Thomson Reuters survey of 3,007 adults conducted July 28 to Aug. 9.

Quotes of note

Eric Holder is a menace to this nation. He is a bad man, a bad human being” — Quin Hillyer, in the American Spectator.

“What would a town hall on race look like? — Joseph C. Phillips, in Townhall.com.

Bill O’Reilly‘s men’s room encounter with Spike Lee.” — Huffington Post headline.

Days of yore

The Liberty Party — “directed against slaveholding as the greatest and most revolting manifestation of despotism” — held its first convention in Buffalo, N.Y., on this day in 1843.

The Confederates defeated Union forces at the second Battle of Bull Run in Manassas 147 years ago today.

Paint your phone red today as well: The 46th anniversary of the official emergency “Hot Line” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to prevent an accidental exchange of nuclear weapons. The first message we sent to them: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890.”

Yes, the line is still in operation.

On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first black to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. He remained on the bench for 24 years.

He was actor, radio announcer and film narrator before he became leader of the free World: 25 years ago today, President Reagan received the Graham McNamee Award, presented by the American Sportscasters Association to a former sportscaster who has “achieved excellence in another field of endeavor.”

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085. Follow her at twitter.com/ harperbulletin.

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